A small fall or awkward step is all it takes sometimes to injure your ankle. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to determine whether you've fractured your ankle or if it's just sprained since the symptoms are similar. While you can treat a sprained ankle at home, a fractured ankle should be assessed by a professional facility, like Advanced Foot & Ankle Center of Palatine. So, it's important to learn the difference between a sprained and fractured ankle so that you know when you need to call a doctor.
Sprained and fractured ankles actually have a lot of the same symptoms, which makes it even more difficult to tell the two apart without a professional opinion. Symptoms that both sprains and fractures have include:
- Pain, especially when you try to put weight on your foot
- Restricted range of motion
So, if these are your only symptoms, it's possible that you've simply sprained your ankle. If that's the case, you should be able to treat your ankle at home by wrapping it in an elastic bandage, applying ice to the area several times per day, resting as much as possible, and elevating your foot on a pillow when you rest. If you think it's at all possible that you've broken a bone, you need to contact your doctor to have an x-ray completed.
Determining a Fracture from a Sprain
Typically, fracture symptoms are more severe than the symptoms of a sprained ankle. It's important to remember that severely sprained ankles have very similar symptoms, but here are some scenarios where it is most likely a fracture::
- You've heard a popping sound when you sprained your ankle.
- Your ankle feels very unstable, you can't walk, or you can't put any weight at all on your foot.
- You don't see any improvement in your ankle after a few days of home treatment.
- You notice pain, swelling, and/or redness in other parts of your leg or your groin -- this indicated that you could have a blood clot that has been caused by a fracture in your ankle.
If you have any of the following symptoms, you should see a physician immediately.
- Your foot changes color or becomes pale
- Your foot is bent at an odd angle
- You can't move your ankle at all
- Your ankle, foot, or toes feel numb
Because sprains and fractures are so similar, the easiest way to know whether or not you've fractured your ankle is to get an x-ray. So, anytime you injure your ankle, you should make an appointment to see an ankle doctor as soon as possible.